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Your Dollars @ Work: Bringing Training to Rural Alaska

This Your Dollars @ Work post features the Alaska Autism Resource Center (AARC), a 2013 Community Grant recipient that is using funding from Autism Speaks to provide autism training and support to the underserved populations in rural and remote Alaska. 

The state of Alaska is made up of five large regions (Anchorage, Mat-Su, Juneau, Kenai, and Fairbanks) and approximately 350 small, rural and remote villages. Resources, services and support for the autism community in the extremely underserved populations in rural and remote Alaska are incredibly scarce and largely non-existent.  Many of these villages are isolated and are only accessible by small plane or boat with hundreds of miles of tundra separating one village from the next.

In 2013, the Alaska Autism Resource Center (AARC) was awarded close to $25,000 in funding through the Family Services Community Grants program to address this deficiency by providing training and support. The grant is aiding AARC in providing training in key areas (i.e. social/communication skills, transitions, and behavioral supports) to the individuals, families, paraprofessionals, and community members who are living in these largely Alaska native villages. In the first two rounds of training, 200 self-advocates, family members, educators, social workers, adult service providers, therapists and paraprofessionals from 40 villages across rural Alaska have been trained. 

One important component to these trainings has been the emphasis on the area of native culture and tribal values. This implementation of culturally relevant practices has been the key to building a community of learners who will want to continue learning and educating others even after this project is over.

The grant paid for the travel of many family members to these trainings, as well as the travel for two specialists to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to receive training by the National Professional Development Center on Autism. 


Below is what some attendees had to say about the successful program!

  • "I have never had any training in ASD, and I truly wanted to learn about it. What I learned has prepared me to recognize symptoms in my children and to empathize with the unique challenges they face every day they come to class. It has also taught me I must do everything I can to help my kids succeed in learning and socializing."
  • "I am a special education teacher in a rural district. We are hundreds of miles away from any easily accessible resources. When I first received notification of this program, funded through grant money, I was ecstatic. This would provide a great opportunity for the parents, professionals and me to attend training that was specifically geared toward our needs."
  • "I really had no idea how hard it might be for students with autism every time they approach a lesson or work with others. Now, I plan and clarify their work much more carefully. And I always have a plan B."
  • "The workshops have given me tools to better serve the needs of my students with autism. The workshops haven't come soon enough, for my knowledge of students with ASD is limited. The seminars have given me insight into the challenges my students face."
  • "The conferences have allowed the parents to meet other parents and form relationships and supports through them. Living in such a remote, sparsely populated area like we do, this is not an opportunity that we have. They now know that they are not alone and have been in contact with other parents between conferences, getting ideas on how to handle situations that come up at home."

Additional trainings are planned for the fall. Learn more about the work of the Alaska Autism Resource Center here!

Your Dollars @ Work is a blog series highlighting the important work of past recipients of Autism Speaks grants to give you a glimpse into how your donations are changing lives of so many in the autism community! Check out previous entries here.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.